IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Judge orders sanctions in response to Lake, Finchem election suit

Lawyers representing Kari Lake and Mark Finchem filed a misguided lawsuit. They're now facing court sanctions as a result.


Arizona Republicans have plenty of reasons to be disappointed about the outcome of this year’s elections. The party came up short in several key races, thanks in large part to the fact that GOP voters nominated several unqualified extremists, leaving a traditionally red state looking decidedly purple.

Among the most notable Republican losers were Kari Lake, an election denier who narrowly lost Arizona’s gubernatorial race, and Mark Finchem, a far-right radical who ran for secretary of state. But months before any ballots were cast, these two filed a federal lawsuit, hoping to prevent Maricopa and Pima counties from using electronic election equipment.

By any fair measure, the litigation was not smart. It also wasn’t successful. But before the case was thrown out over the summer, members of the Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors sought sanctions against the plaintiffs for the “numerous false allegations about Arizona elections” Lake, Finchem, and their attorneys made in their complaint.

As The Arizona Republic reported, the judge in the case agreed.

In a blistering 30-page opinion, a federal judge ordered sanctions against the attorneys of Kari Lake and Mark Finchem in their lawsuit against voting machines, hoping to deter “similarly baseless suits in the future.” ... In his order granting sanctions on Thursday, [U.S. District Court Judge John Tuchi] delivered strong punches to the arguments that Lake, Finchem and their attorneys put forth in what he deemed a “frivolous complaint.”

While the plaintiffs sought “massive, perhaps unprecedented federal judicial intervention” to change Arizona’s election system before the recent election, “they never had a factual basis or legal theory that came anywhere close to meeting that burden,” the judge wrote.

As the local report added, Tuchi went on to say he would “not condone litigants ... furthering false narratives that baselessly undermine public trust at a time of increasing disinformation about, and distrust in, the democratic process.”

Bill Gates, a local Board of Supervisors chair, told the Republic in a statement there are “too many examples in recent years of attorneys trying to weaponize the court for political purposes. It is wrong, it is unethical, and these attorneys must be held accountable if we are to protect our democratic republic.”

It’s an important point. American courtrooms are not supposed to be abused by politicians filing frivolous cases in pursuit of partisan theatrics. The judiciary is not a toy. There is a reasonable expectation that all litigation, even if ultimately unsuccessful, have at least some merit.

And when attorneys file performative cases in pursuit of scoring political points, it’s also reasonable to expect them to pay a price.

It was just a few weeks ago when a federal judge sanctioned Donald Trump’s lawyers for filing a transparently dumb case, penalizing the attorneys $50,000 for engaging in “a deliberate use of the judicial system to pursue a political agenda.” Last week, a different judge agreed to a similar step against Trump’s allies in the Grand Canyon State.

As for the precise penalty in Arizona, the Republic’s report added, “The final sanctions order won’t come for at least a month. Tuchi gave the county two weeks to file the total amount of attorneys’ fees incurred since the lawsuit was first filed. The plaintiffs have two additional weeks after that to file a response as to the “reasonableness” of the amount of fees.”